Is tennis entering a new golden age? We can only hope.

There was something for everyone. The linen grace of Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal’s power of punishment. Novak Djokovic and his unfail...


There was something for everyone. The linen grace of Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal’s power of punishment. Novak Djokovic and his unfailing determination. The unwavering way in which Serena Williams dismantled a tired tradition.

For two decades, professional tennis has been bathed in the golden glow provided by an unchanging hierarchy of players with distinctive styles and personalities who have combined to define the game in the 21st century.

But time, and the coronavirus, change everything.

For the second major championship in a row, as the Australian Open unfolds in the scorching heat of Melbourne, Federer and williams find themselves at home, healing from their wounds at 40. We may never see them play top level tennis again.

Also finished, of course, is Djokovic.

It’s unclear when the world No.1 will return to the big leagues and how the scorn from the fans will affect a player who has spent his career yearning for adoration. Depending on the evolution of the pandemic, tennis’ most famous vaccine refusenik could be banned from traveling to countries hosting the biggest tournaments of the year, jeopardizing his quest to surpass the 20 Grand Slam stalemate in which he is with Federer and Nadal.

Of the golden quartet, only Nadal traveled to Melbourne. A well-worn 35, he just suffered a foot injury that kept him sidelined for most of the last year.

He looked sharp during the Aussie’s opening stanza, perhaps good enough to summon greatness again and lift the Championship trophy for the second time. Even if he does, how much longer can the Nadal we knew be the Nadal we revere?

What can we still count on in tennis?

Nothing.

The days when the game could rely on the exceptional power of its quartet of rock stars to attract fans and add excitement – ​​the days when they squeezed them like locks to make at least the semi-finals of every title major – those days are over.

Remember when Naomi Osaka was supposed to be the next big thing? Right now, his last major title victory, the Australian Open last winter, seems in this time-warped streak as if it happened a decade ago rather than a year ago.

She left last year’s French Open en route, taking the opportunity to speak about the anxiety and depression that weighs heavily on her shoulders. She skipped Wimbledon, needing time away from the grind and highlights. She lost early at the US Open and the Tokyo Olympics. Last week, Osaka’s bid repeated in Melbourne ended at the hands of the 60th player in the world.

Remember Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, the teenage upstarts who electrified the US Open last summer by competing in the women’s final? Neither has done much since. Fernandez lost in the first round last week. Raducanu was sent off in the second.

Perhaps there’s a silver lining to the game’s new uncertainty. Freed from the shadow cast by the biggest stars, it’s easier to get excited about a larger cast.

In week one at Melbourne Park, that meant marveling at 20-year-old Amanda Anisimova as she ripped through the backhand winners past Osaka in an upset victory. Where to watch Carlos Alcaraz, 18, sprints, slides and stretches to keep a point alive before suddenly lifting off and hitting a winner at full throttle.

The uncertainty gave more sparkle to young Italian Jannik Sinner, who was as surprisingly gifted as an upstart, as he fought his way through the draw.

This put more emphasis on Ashleigh Barty, Wimbledon champion last year, possessing the smoothest game this side of Federer.

Daniil Medvedev, who shattered Djokovic’s Grand Slam dreams by beating the Serbian to win the 2021 US Open, will he snatch the world No. 1 ranking? What if he becomes one of the constant standard bearers in the game?

In Melbourne last week, Medvedev flashed his quirky and almost unfathomable game. Several of his shots appear to have been self-taught and honed in a steep public park while playing with duffers – the reflex volley with one hand on the racquet’s throat, the clumsy forehand that sometimes ends with legs wide apart and a strangled follow-up .

As Medvedev often did at Flushing Meadows, he showed he could be an engaging champion – witty, open and more than willing to play the villain with a wink.

This year, the typically rowdy crowd at the Australian Open used the famous “Siuuu!” by Cristiano Ronaldo. party cry during matches. This angered several players, including Medvedev, who thought the chants were boos during his win over Nick Kyrgios. As one would expect based on his past US Open shenanigans, Medvedev angered the crowd when he scolded them for chanting in a field maintenance.

He later explained with his usual will to incite wrath: “Not everyone does it. But those who do probably have a low IQ”

Imagine Federer saying such a thing about the fans. Impossible. But it may be a positive and energizing change.

It is difficult to let go of a generation.

A new era has arrived. All we can do is embrace it, wait patiently and hope for the best.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Is tennis entering a new golden age? We can only hope.
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